The new normal
It’s been 406 days since I came home for Spring Break. In this time so many things have happened: I became aware of the Coronavirus outbreak, finished my classes virtually, mourned the death of my dog Prince (the cutest and sassiest 13 year old Shih-tzu), stopped sharing a room with my sister, began learning how to play the guitar (and make pottery, beaded jewelry, started a garden, took up bike riding and roller skating, etc.), got rid of my Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, and TikTok (yikes) and began making friends with new people.
Out of all of my pandemic exploits which involved developing new skills and breaking old habits, the hardest thing I did was give up TikTok. Surprisingly, the easiest thing for me to do was make friends.
At the start of the pandemic, when the world was shutting down, all of my extroverted, super busy, club president, politically involved friends were turning to the internet in order to carry on with what was dubbed “the new normal”.
Fortunately for me, I was already hyper connected to the internet having lived my life on there since elementary school when I would spend my time divided between reading ebooks, the KidzBop.com forums, Poptropica and PrimaryGames.com.
Growing up as an introverted and autistic kid I often found it hard to make and keep friends. I was always trying to make friends but then once I made them I never knew what to do with them and despite my best efforts, my friendships didn’t last long. Ever since the pandemic has altered how the world interacts, I’ve found myself on a more level playing field.
The world shutting down opened up my world. Activities that were strictly held in person became virtual and distant ‘friends,’ who were often too busy to hang out with a chronic homebody like me, were constantly calling and texting me.
I began joining new social groups--such as a random zoom party group called “It Is What it Is” that was filled with a bunch of random youth climate activists and influencers and just held all-night-long theme parties on zoom and made IG stan posts for each other (I was made in to the yellow ranger, Trini, from the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers series which is my personal favorite). As someone who hasn’t partied since the parent-sanctioned birthday parties of my childhood and early teen years, this was a fun new activity that I could safely participate in.
Not too long after our party group died down, I settled into a few new friendships with some musicians. We made music together and planned out a content house we could possibly stay in together with some other music friends. While those dreams have been put on the back burner due to logistical disputes, I made a longtime friend out of one girl in particular who I routinely talk to and make fun plans with.
Everyone is weird on the internet
I realized that everyone is weird on the internet and I have been able to find community and hobbies to get involved with. I’m able to better engage in conversations because I can join them whenever they suit me. I’ve started scheduling time with friends and have even found a routine day and time to meet with most. When I’m not feeling up to talking vocally with friends, I can text them.
I don’t “run into” friends anymore on the street and have to plough into conversation with them out of politeness. I can join new activities and meet new people without the added stress of in-person eventing.
For me at least, making friends is so much easier and keeping them is so much simpler.